OAKLEY -- For more than 23 years, Oakley Preschool, a state-run preschool program, has been providing free or low-cost preschool services to Oakley residents. The program coordinators understand that while preschool programs are important to today's youngsters, not everyone can afford for their children to attend a program.

"Kindergarten is very academic now, which is very different from when I was in preschool," said Julie Linder, the supervisor for the Oakley Preschool.

Linder explained that students in kindergarten have longer days, and children are expected to get right into the groove of learning. The program is funded through the state and run through the Oakley Elementary School District.

"This is the advantage we have at the Oakley Preschool," she said. "We are linked with the school district, which means we can align our curriculum and help those with special needs get a head start on learning how to cope with starting school early."

The program runs at both Oakley School and Gehringer School, with a total of 88 students. Oakley school runs one morning and two afternoon programs, while Gehringer School runs one program in the morning and one in the afternoon.

"We work to make the program for more than just the students but to add the parents into the equation," Linder said.

The organization runs parenting-education meetings and other activities to encourage the families to be involved in their child's education.


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During the holidays, the program hosts a Winter Holiday Party that brings both schools together with the children and families attending. Linder says the nice thing about the event is that it incorporates all the holiday traditions from different cultures to give everyone a chance to learn about the different traditions.

The families get to make arts and crafts, eat a potluck meal and have pictures with Santa at no charge.

During the event, the preschool administrators use grant money from the "Share the Spirit" campaign sponsored by this newspaper to give to each family to spend for the holidays.

"The parents really look forward to the contributions," Linder said.

One year a family couldn't afford a Christmas tree, and the children were disappointed about not getting one.

"When we surprised them with the grant money, they were very excited by the chance to give their children that tree," Linder said.

The money also helps families to purchase Christmas presents or put a nice meal on the table for the holidays, she said.

Linder said there is generally a waiting list for families to sign up for the program, but she still encourages families to at least get on to the waiting list. The program fees are set on a sliding scale based on income and how many children are in the family needing services, she said.

"The cost is much lower than private preschools," Linder said. "There are also still a lot of families who get the services for free."

Those interested in the program should contact the program's registration clerk, Maria Sahagun, at 925-625-6366. Linder said that Sahagun speaks both English and Spanish.

share the spirit

The Share the Spirit campaign, sponsored by the Bay Area News Group, benefits nonprofit agencies in Alameda and Contra Costa counties. To help, clip the coupon accompanying this story or go to https://volunteer.truist.com/vccc/donate.
Readers with questions, and corporations interested in making large contributions may contact the Volunteer Center of the East Bay, which administers the fund, at 925-472-5760.